Home Read Thom Yorke | Suspiria vs. John Carpenter | Halloween

Thom Yorke | Suspiria vs. John Carpenter | Halloween

Two horror-movie classics return to life — with new soundtracks to match.

How do you make a great horror-movie soundtrack? The same way you make a great horror movie: By finding new ways to terrify the bejeesus out of people while respecting the conventions of the genre. And when it comes to modern frightfest scores, there’s no shortage of essential ingredients. You’ve got sinister cellos and slashing strings. Slowly plinking pianos and one-finger synth melodies. Ghostly choirs and subterranean drones. Ominous rumbles and teeth-gnashing snarls. Anyone who’s spent any evening peeping through their fingers at a slasher flick or supernatural thriller is as familiar with these musical tropes as they are with lightning storms, power outages, cobwebby basements, teens who split up to search for their missing friend, horny kids who get butchered while knocking boots, and insane masked killers who cannot be stopped with machetes, bullets, fire or explosives. Director John Carpenter is clearly at home in this world; after all, he helped create it. Along with Psycho, Black Christmas and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, his original 1978 film Halloween drafted the template for contemporary horror. And the pinging 5/4 melody of his self-penned theme did the same for scare-flick scores, thanks to its creepy nursery-rhyme simplicity and hypnotically haunting vibe. Fittingly, now that Carpenter has returned to the franchise with this year’s well-received 40th anniversary instalment, he’s resurrected his signature score yet again for its soundtrack album. Aided by son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies (son of Kinks guitarist Dave Davies), Carpenter repeatedly recycles and reworks his unforgettable melody, deconstructing and reconstructing it into a 43-minute work that’s every bit as single-minded and relentless as his nameless killer. But even though it’s primed to pump through your outdoor speakers to spook trick-or-treaters, it’s not the kind of album you’ll want to sit and listen to more than once. For that, check out Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke‘s soundtrack for Luca Guadagnino‘s remake of the Dario Argento classic Suspiria. Like countless other scary scores, it includes many of the sonic ingredients above (with the added plus of Yorke’s fittingly spectral vocals). And it combines them reverently, expertly and effectively, creating an unsettling tension that persists throughout the epic 79-minute offering. What’s more impressive — but perhaps not surprising, given the cinematic nature of Yorke and his band’s work — is that the disc also works as an album in its own right. Haunting vocal ballads like Suspirium and Unmade wouldn’t be out of place on the last few Radiohead discs. Even some of the more subtle, atmospheric cuts possess enough structure and songcraft to bear repeated listening. That ability to meet your horror-score expectations even as he raises the musical and compositional bars elevates Suspiria above and beyond the soundalike soundtrack pack. Also, it kinda makes you hope Yorke is free next time somebody decides to revive Jason, Freddy or H.R. Giger‘s Alien for another killing spree.

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